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Odd twists right to the end in Wheatfield GOP primary

   It was a strange and sordid election in Wheatfield until the bitter end Tuesday night, as reported today in The Buffalo News.

   A Republican primary battle between Supervisor Timothy E. Demler and former Town Justice Robert B. Cliffe brought a no holds barred style of politics the likes of which haven't been seen in Wheatfield in years.

   First, there were the pictures and a YouTube video showing Demler holding hands with a town employee.

   Then, there were the late accusations released by GOP leaders that accused Demler of overstepping his power.

   And in the final hour of the primary, a cable broke in a voting machine at the town community center, leaving confused voters trying to figure out how to fill out paper ballots.

   Art Avery, a 40-year elections worker who looks after dozens of voting machines across the county, said the break-down was a fluke that couldn't be fixed within the hour.

   "I've been all over the county," Avery said Tuesday night. "It's the only one that broke."

   It was a strange occurrence in a strange election.

   At The News, we had many discussions about how to cover this primary. Personal allegations made against Demler a week before he lost the endorsement and support of his party in June were too central to what was happening to ignore.

   Several voters on Tuesday said they were sick of hearing accusations and counter accusations on recorded messages and flyers. Others said they simply didn't care.

   "As far as the guy digging dirt, it doesn't bother me," said Domonick Rebon, an 80-year-old Democrat who wanted to vote Tuesday but couldn't. "If a guy has a little bit of dirt, that don't bother me."

   Another voter, who did not want to give his name, said it was difficult to sort through "what was true and what was not true."

   "If they could just stick to the issues, and not the nonsense, we would be a lot better off," the voter said.

   All that extra attention during this primary season had an impact. Voter turnout was high for such a race. About 36 percent of the town's registered Republicans showed up to vote. Cliffe grabbed the Republican nomination Tuesday night in a fairly close contest.

   Demler may be out, but the election season in Wheatfield isn't over - nor likely are the "robo calls."

   Next bout: Cliffe vs. Democratic nominee Sam Conti Nov. 3.

   -- Denise Jewell Gee

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